The Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA) – an industry organisation representing offshore operators – has made its first allegation of a Jones Act violation under its Jones Act enforcer programme in the Gulf of Mexico
In a letter of allegation addressed to a US Coast Guard representative, OSMA alleges Epic Hedron, a Chinese-built, Vanuatu-flagged derrick barge operated by Triton Offshore, was transporting merchandise between points off the coast of Louisiana in violation of the Jones Act.
OMSA said it acted on a tipoff from an industry insider regarding the company’s own LinkedIN accounts and on review, those accounts appeared to show Epic Hedron carrying cargo.
The Jones Act is a long standing United States federal statute that requires seaborne cargo shipped between two points in the US to be carried by US-built, crewed and owned vessels.
OMSA president Aaron Smith said, “It is also an important law because it protects US workers from unfair competition from foreign workers willing to accept wages far below what any US citizen could or should accept. In this report, we’ve detailed how a company – by their own admission – used a Chinese-built vessel to transport cargo. That’s illegal. Not to mention the vessel they are using has a record of failing Coast Guard inspections.”
In the letter, OSMA recounts a history of safety and pollution prevention infractions by Epic Hedron and how, based upon official Coast Guard reports, the authorities seemed to let these violations go unpunished, provided the vessel operator agreed to fix the problem, according to OMSA.
The derrick barge features a heavy-lift crane capable of lifting large pieces of equipment. In the allegation, OMSA details how the vessel used its crane to pick up pieces of oil platform (called jackets) weighing thousands of tonnes and while the jackets were suspended in the air, carried this cargo for miles across the Gulf of Mexico.
OMSA notes that these actions are violations of the Jones Act and that the mode of transportation also poses safety hazards.
“Epic Hedron has racked up a shocking number of violations, and in each case, it seems they were told ‘just don’t do it again.’”
“If that were a US-flagged vessel, the US Coast Guard would have prevented it from leaving the dock and the crew might even face criminal penalties. Foreign-flagged vessels should play be the same rules” said Mr Smith.
OMSA also alleges Epic Hedron has failed to record ballast water discharges and continuously failed to utilise its automatic identification system (AIS) in violation of international safety regulations. This system provides real-time and historical tracking about the vessel’s activities.
"I think more people, not less, need to know what Epic Hedron is up to. It, and all other Chinese-built vessels, should be publicly broadcasting their activities. The question is why aren’t they?”
OSMA represents over 140 member companies. Earlier this year the organisation chartered Jones Act Enforcer, a fast supply vessel outfitted with aerial and surface surveillance equipment, to help collect evidence of foreign vessels violating the Jones Act during offshore energy projects in Gulf of Mexico.
The letter of allegation can be accessed here.
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